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P R E S E N T S

IN ASSOCIATION WITH JAG E X in association with XXXXX

PRESENTS RUNESCAPE 1


2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013

WHAT IS RUNESCAPE?

P R E S PLAY NOW

www.runescape.com

CONTENTS 04 » Genesis

RuneScape’s early years.

06 » Breaking ground

Jagex adapt to a growing game.

08 » Evolution, revolution

Radical changes cause controversy.

10 » Campfire tales

Stories begin to emerge. 12 » From the depths ... Dungeoneering arrives. 14 » ... To the skies The rise of Clan Citadels. 16 » Once and future RuneScape enters a new era. 2

PRESENTS RUNESCAPE


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E N T S

ver the course of its 12-year history, RuneScape has won awards and set Guinness World Records. It has been played by hundreds of millions of people, and spent the better part of a decade as the most popular free MMORPG in the west. All this from one of Britain’s most successful indie developers – Jagex, a studio that has grown from a handful of people to over 500 in the lifespan of a single game. RuneScape is one of the biggest stories in online gaming – and yet it’s a story that, until now, has gone largely untold.

Over the next 18 pages, we delve deep into the history of the game, talking to the developers who have been there from the beginning about their experience of working on an everevolving online world. We explore RuneScape’s biggest triumphs and bestkept secrets, from the major landmarks in its ongoing development to the small personal touches that define its spirit. This is a game that has come a long way in 12 years. Whether you’re a current RuneScape player, someone who used to play, or someone who has never logged on – welcome. The world’s greatest adventure is out there, and it’s getting bigger all the time.

TIMELINE January 2001

March 2001

The first version of RuneScape is launched to the public – running from a bedroom in Nottingham.

‘Good’ and ‘Evil’ spellcasting is made available to adventurers for the first time.

RuneScape Classic Launched

The Discovery Of Magic

PRESENTS RUNESCAPE 3


2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013

2001-2002

Genesis

R

uneScape has evolved in parallel with the rest of the MMORPG genre, but its origins aren’t in online roleplaying games as we understand them today. “A lot of us that were involved in the early days of the game are all traditional roleplayers, whether that’s tabletop roleplaying, live action roleplaying, or storytelling,” says design director Mark Ogilvie. “Our grounding isn’t in the digital format. That’s one of the things that sets us apart from the rest.” The result is an expansive online game whose mixed heritage includes pen and paper games as well as the text-based MUDs (multi-user dungeons) that dominated parts of the nascent online roleplaying scene in the 1990s. Like Ultima Online, RuneScape started off as an attempt to apply the depth and emergent potential of a MUD to a game with a level of graphical fidelity that hadn’t been achieved before. The goal of a graphical MUD wasn’t simply to provide content to complete, but a world to occupy: a persistent online space with mechanics that structure player action without placing undue restrictions on it.

“It was built because the founders at the time [brothers Andrew and Paul Gower] were at university, going from one university laboratory to another. They wanted to be able to play a game on the PCs, but found it very frustrating that they had to install it every single time they went to a new PC.” Subsequently, RuneScape was built on “the concept of something easily accessible and browser-based, but using a code language [they] could quickly iterate on”. The tiny team at Jagex – described by early hire Ian Taylor as “three or four people in an office with a laptop” – got the game out in front of the public quickly and established a rapid update schedule that hasn’t abated

since. The game entered beta with just six quests and a handful of skills – but even at that early stage, the game’s principles of open levelling, long-form storytelling and player freedom were in evidence. “Whatever mood you’re in with RuneScape, there will always be something cool for you to get involved with,” Ogilvie says, defining the game’s remit – both then and now – as escapism. Nonetheless, its accessibility and connected nature gave it additional real-life purpose that its creators didn’t anticipate. “I think one of the early reasons for RuneScape’s success is that it was a social network,” says Jagex CEO Mark Gerhard, who joined the company Tens of thousands of people played in the first year.

Accessibility first

Unlike its peers, RuneScape was built to run in Java through a browser. It was a technically ambitious move that has reaped dividends for developer Jagex in the long run – but at the time, the decision was a matter of simple convenience, as Ogilvie explains. May 2001

December 2001

Adventurers find religion in the form of the stat-boosting Prayer Skill.

RuneScape’s first holiday event scatters festive hats across the land.

Prayers, Answered

4

Magic was an early addition. Wizard hats optional.

PRESENTS RUNESCAPE

It’s Christmas!


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DEV PROFILE

IAN TAYLOR Audio developer

later, in 2008. “As much as it was a Tolkien-esque medieval fantasy environment, you look at the statistics and you’ll see 10-15 per cent of our players in the lobby at any one time, not playing the game, just hanging about chatting and being social.” These values – creativity, sociability, and versatility – provide useful touchstones while unpicking the game’s long history. Over the course of RuneScape’s first year, the online landscape changed. The dot-com bubble burst in 2000, necessitating a rethink of the advertising model that had supported the game in its early months. In February 2002, paid subscriptions were introduced – a recurring fee that earned members access to exclusive skills, quests, and other content. The popularity of the game spread, almost entirely through word-of-mouth. “RuneScape was snowballing like crazy,” Ogilvie says. “Our players were our advertising force.” By the end of 2002, the game had been played by over a million people – and both the game and its developer had to expand to accommodate them.

Ian was one of Jagex’s earliest hires, starting off in customer support and progressing through content development before becoming a full-time sound designer on RuneScape. His work now includes composing music, recording sound effects, and overseeing voiceovers.

I was a kid as well, so it was relatively natural that I got into this kind of career.

What was it like when you started working on RuneScape? Everyone had to do everything – that was my day. Now, I can spend all the time that I need to really develop sounds, and not just take a stock sound from a library and plonk it in the game. In the early days, one day I’d make a map, or the graphics for a castle, the next day I’d be answering e-mails from customers, the day after that I’d be writing music – a bit of everything. This gave me a really good grounding in the game, a good understanding. You ended up getting spread quite thinly, but it was a small team so you were expected to do what needed to be done.

What defines RuneScape from a sound designer’s point of view? The thing about RuneScape is it’s kind of... one game fits them all, if you like. You can run around a corner from killing a dragon and you may be interacting with jolly trolls, or clowns – or who knows what? We’ve got darker music for the more immersive storylines. One of the challenges is trying to bring all these elements together so that it becomes a whole, rather than individual parts. RuneScape is very varied so it needs to have variation in the audio, but it still needs to sound like one game. One of the best things about our team is that we can exercise our creative abilties – we’re relied on to do that. We work with the developers and the designers to try to bring an idea across, but it’s got to come from us, from inside ourselves. There’s a lot of identity from me, as well as from everyone who works on the game.

What was the sound design aspect like back then? There was nothing really there in terms of audio in the early days, so we all had to come up with a plan and it... sort of grew out of nothing, really. I’ve been playing keyboards for many years – that’s my love, synthesisers and music technology. I did a bit of programming when

Is there any part of your work on the game that you’re particularly proud of? There are a couple of quests where everything gelled: the sound effects, the voiceover, and the music. There are some really good examples of that in the ‘One Piercing Note’ and the ‘Queen Black Dragon’ quests – these are fantastic storylines and I hope that they’ve got some awesome audio in there as well.

April 2002

July 2002

September 2002

The Thieving skill lets players pursue a less-than-honourable life of crime.

A new city is added, at the heart of a winding hedge-maze.

RuneScape’s biggest foe to date is added: a three-headed, fire -breathing monstrosity.

Stop, Thief!

Tree Gnome Village

King Black Dragon

PRESENTS RUNESCAPE 5


2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013

DEV PROFILE

MARK OGILVIE Design director

Mark – who is known to the RuneScape community as Mod Mark – is the game’s most senior designer. He celebrated his tenth year on RuneScape in February, and is credited with overseeing some of the most dramatic new additions to the MMO in its history. How did you celebrate ten years of working on the game? The art team commissioned some art: a picture of me in RuneScape garb as the captain of a ship! It was pretty cool and lots of people signed it. I got a shiny watch. I had a bit of a celebration with the players in the game as well: I have a friend’s chat channel I use to communicate with the players to talk about ideas and get a better feeling for how the community is. We had a celebration on there. What was Jagex like when you joined? We were a very green company. There was an entrepreneurial spirit here but there wasn’t a lot of experience with traditional games design – simple principles like core aims or design documents. It was a much more Eastern philosophy of games design, where we’d just make things on screen and see what looked cool. What have been the major influences on your work on RuneScape? More than a lot of games, the root of RuneScape is very much in traditional

July 2003

Pets Win Prizes

Players are able to earn their first companion pets, starting with a cat.

6

PRESENTS RUNESCAPE

roleplaying games: the idea of an adventuring party. A lot of the early ideas we had in the game were very much based around old roleplaying adventures that the founders or myself were involved with – old games like Monkey Island were a big influence on things like RuneScape. For myself, reference points that I always give to my developers are films like The Dark Crystal, which I think is really important. The organic feel of the world and the dominance of the characters that are involved – we use a lot of references from films like that. What are you keen for people to discover in the game, that they may otherwise have overlooked? We’ve recently released three starter-level quests that are fully voiced, have incredible graphics and have got some of our best storytellers on [them]. ‘One Piercing Note’ is a particularly cool quest, which is about an order of nuns that follow a certain element of Saradomin – one of the gods we have in the game – and one of the sisters has been found dead. You get involved in a CSI-style quest where you’re going around exploring various different crime scenes and things like that. I would try the Dungeoneering skill as well, just because you don’t have to learn about the rest of the game to enjoy it. The area of the game is called Daemonheim. If you follow the River Lum down from Lumbridge you’ll find the boat to take you straight to Daemonheim.

November 2003

Forum Launched

The official discussion boards provide the community with access to the developers.


advertising feature 2003-2004

Breaking ground

J

Discover quests in the Wizard’s Tower.

Fishing remains a cornerstone of the economy.

RuneScape 2 radically overhauled the game.

agex’s early growth and the success of RuneScape didn’t change the fact that the game’s development was an ongoing act of improvisation. “Everything was very fluid in the way that it was created,” explains Mark Ogilvie. “It was very much individual developer-led. They would come up with the idea and the proof of concept, get some code working and we’d see what we liked and didn’t like. We’d pretty much leave them to it for a couple of months, and see what they came up with.” It’s easy to forget that RuneScape was – and is – the product of an indie studio, and some of that spirit is evident in the way each part of the game was put together in those early days. In August 2003, RuneScape launched its 50th story-driven mission – Legends’ Quest. Like many of the quests that would follow it, Legends’ Quest is the work of a single main designer. In this way, it was possible for individual creators to make their mark on a game that is consumed differently by millions of people. This is also, Mark Ogilvie argues, a key part of what makes the game British.

“I think a lot of the British culture that we have is being proud of what we are, as a company, but also trying not to take ourselves too seriously,” Ogilvie says. “You hear a lot about the fact that we’ve got all these other cultures that have influenced what ‘British’ means – I think the game is very much the same kind of thing. We allow these different developers to make the game grow but they bring very different styles... that in itself is fundamentally British.”

A very British MMO

As multiple designers began to lead the game in different directions, it became increasingly clear that RuneScape needed redeveloping in order to accommodate their ambition. Engine tweaks were a common part of everyday development on the game, but in its original form – a version of the game that is now known as RuneScape Classic – there was a lot that couldn’t be done. The answer was RuneScape 2, a comprehensive overhaul of the concept that touched every part of the game. Launching in April 2004, RuneScape 2 featured full 3D graphics – as opposed to RuneScape Classic’s faux 3D, which used rotating sprites – and numerous expansions to the game’s underlying scripting engine. By raising the bar technically, Jagex gave themselves the freedom to expand the game creatively – including, later in the same year, the introduction of dynamic objective-based PvP in the Castle Wars update. “The conversion from RuneScape Classic into what we now call ‘proper’ RuneScape was a real catalyst for us,” Ogilvie says. “We had to hire a hell of a lot of new staff, and we needed to make sure there was a more robust procedure to go through to release content. We needed to make sure that those ideas were put in the right order so they would benefit the game.”

April 2004

December 2004

A major overhaul, from graphics to server structure – essentially, a whole new game.

The Castle Wars minigame adds capture the flag-style PvP for the first time.

RuneScape 2 Launched

Have Fun Storming The Castle

PRESENTS RUNESCAPE 7


2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013

2005-2007

Evolution, revolution

T

he transition to a more structured way of providing weekly updates didn’t take place overnight. Lead animator Paul Brown, who joined the dev team in 2006, describes his initial job as much broader than the role he now finds himself in. “It was a very open structure. An artist and a content developer – a coder – would go into a room and discuss how a project was going to work, how a story arc was going to develop. Everyone had almost equal interest and equal input into how that would develop. It was very much a collaborative process.” The massive RuneScape community has always played a role in that collaborative process, but with hundreds of thousands of active players to cater for by that point, simply talking to people in-game became less and less practical. “In the early days, because our community was quite small, we could

Controversial changes

There were a number of milestones in 2007 for both Jagex and RuneScape. The Cold War quest series marked a high point for the game’s sense of humour. The introduction of the Grand Exchange gave form and structure to its sprawling network of in-game traders. In August, the game set the Guinness World Record for Most Popular Free MMORPG. In the eyes of veteran players, however, one update stands out above the others – the changes to the

Yeah, probably time to call an exterminator.

Wilderness. RuneScape’s open-world PvP area had the side effect of enabling the exchange of in-game goods for real money. As part of a wider effort to crack down on unscrupulous play, the zone – and with it, PvP – was altered substantially. Frustrated players who didn’t perceive the necessity of the change staged in-game protests. “I think every player at the time would have said ‘the influence of gold farmers or bots is causing a problem’,” Ogilvie explains. “What we failed to recognise was the gameplay impact. There were a lot of players who wanted the kind of high-risk gameplay [that]

July 2005

March 2006

May 2006

With the addition of Farming, adventurers can harvest crops and grow trees.

RuneScape’s 100th quest is a challenge for newbies and veterans alike.

A major tech upgrade reduces RuneScape’s memory footprint, improving performance.

Country Life

8

have a personal relationship with all of our players,” says Mark Ogilvie. “We could listen to all of their queries and help them on an individual basis. We would log in to the fansites and speak to the players there. “As the company grew, it became impossible to continue with that level of communication – and I think, to an extent, we were too nervous about the fact that not everyone was going to like everything we did.”

PRESENTS RUNESCAPE

Recipe for Disaster

Engine Upgrades


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The Hunter skill lets players trap animals.

DEV PROFILE

ASH BRIDGES Senior content developer

Penguins plot world domination in Cold War.

relied on the fact that huge amounts of gold could transfer at any one time. That’s what we changed, and that’s why it was unpopular. I think the motivations for the changes were right, but we underestimated the impact on genuine players.” The upset over the Wilderness changes highlighted Jagex’s need to find new ways of engaging with their public. At the same time, it illustrates the depth of the community’s investment – and the fact that the more popular RuneScape became, the more players had the power to define what the game meant.

Ash has been working on RuneScape since 2005, but has been a player far longer than that. Arriving at Jagex straight from the community, he has progressed from version control work to the design and implementation of new content. How did you find yourself working on the game? I started playing the game in university, and by the time I graduated I was something of an expert on RuneScape – I was a forum moderator for Jagex. I played RuneScape as my principle hobby, and I knew one or two of the Jagex staff socially. Applying to the company seemed a natural thing to do because I didn’t want to move out of Cambridge after graduating, so I joined the support team. From there I was very fortunate: I was able to work my way up to the content team, taking field promotions where they became available. I was very fortunate and the company has been very good to me in that regard. Was your experience playing the game useful? It was. I was able to instinctively design content that would appeal to RuneScape players, because it would appeal to me. I didn’t have to look too far for ideas because I was a player. I could tell if something in the game was bugging me, or missing, and request to create it. It was a fairly smooth transition.

Out of everything you’ve done on the game, what are you proudest of? I’m particularly proud of the wise old man. He’s a character in RuneScape who’s featured in various quests that I’ve written. We designed his house with a few accoutrements – a globe, a telescope – and it was pointed out that his telescope seemed to be aimed at the nearby bank. From that we got the idea that maybe he wants to rob the bank. So I developed the character towards him being a corrupt and sinister person who seems good on the outside – but inside, he’s the kind of man who would rob a bank just because he wants the money. The players responded very well to this, partly because he didn’t behave like normal characters in the game – he wasn’t focused on the game’s storylines, he was focused on himself. That came about sort of by accident. And now the wise old man is one of the signature features of RuneScape. If the players want to run with something and think it’s really cool, then as likely as not we’ll run with it as well – but maybe not in the direction they’ve got in mind! For a long time the players wanted to develop the wise old man as the embodiment of one of the gods from years gone by. But instead, we gave him a psychotic ex-girlfriend and let them fight their way through his player-owned house, which was modelled on [normal] playerowned houses, but slightly better – because the wise old man is cleverer.

January 2007

May 2007

August 2007

Penguin paranoia leads to globe-trotting adventure – one of Jagex’s sillier moments.

Achievements add new challenges for veteran players and guidance for newbies.

RuneScape picks up the Guinness World Record for Most Popular Free MMORPG.

Cold War

Task Masters

Record Breaker

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2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013

DEV PROFILE

DAVID OSBORNE Senior narrative designer

David is responsible for ensuring that the vast amount of background lore accrued over more than ten years of the title’s development comes together to support the game that players encounter today. He has overseen the work that has gone into the three RuneScape novels, and has written extensively on the history of the game’s setting – Gielinor – to ensure that it has a vibrant future. What is your history at Jagex? I was originally a games and music journalist and I came here to make sure that all the semicolons were in the right place! We were really looking to improve the quality of the dialogue and the standard of the English within the game. I started giving game feedback and really pushing it, and soon it became clear that I had some design qualities and was moving into narrative design – I think the final turning point was editing the RuneScape novels. How does the process of writing RuneScape differ now from when you first started? At the start, it was in one person’s head. It wasn’t necessarily on a storyboard or anything like that. It has been about drawing together all these threads and trying to create something that’s broad and engaging for the new player, while still adding to the story that the older players knew. So it’s trying to do that

and maintain a consistency and coherence of the universe, while bringing it some focus. What is your relationship with the community like? Ten years of expectation really – because you’ve got people who’ve been there for ten years! We’ve promised them certain stories, and we really want to deliver them. What would you recommend players do when they first get in-game? I’m always going to push people towards story because I think that’s one of our unique points – we have a certain seriousness about story. You won’t find that you’re ‘fetch questing’ particularly: you’re not going to kill X wolves to get Y reward. There’s a certain amount of time that we expect from you with a quest. They’re really meaty, interesting, choice-driven, fundamentally attractive playing experiences. What are you most pleased with out of your work on the game? I think the proudest thing for me is what will be happening in the next couple of months. We’re doing something that’s relatively new to the gaming industry in terms of story, which is that we’re moving the age forward. We’ve built a system in which past content will still be in the game, but we’re giving the player the respect and the faith to understand that it’s in the past. That’s how the next age that we’re talking about is going to happen.

July 2008

November 2008

A substantial update introduces hardware rendering, increasing graphical fidelity.

The game’s first Grandmaster quest sees players claim God-like powers.

High Definition

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PRESENTS RUNESCAPE

While Guthix Sleeps

Signature heroes like Ozan personify particular roles.


advertising feature 2008-2009

Campfire tales

A

s RuneScape aged, the amount of minigames, quests and side content that it offered continued to grow. Distractions and Diversions, which was introduced in 2008, brought random events designed to lead players away from their fixed progression paths towards new things to do. These include reassembling shattered statues, tracking down shooting stars, and exploring sinkholes. These events are designed to produce unique stories – instances in each play session where mechanics and circumstance come together to create something unrepeatable. Sometimes, however, the players aren’t the only ones surprised by the impact of a new feature. Also introduced in 2008 was Stealing Creation, a competitive minigame for both crafters and PvP fighters. The intent was that warriors would need to protect the noncombatants while they went about their work – but in reality, players figured out that it was more profitable

for both sides not to go to war at all. Mark Ogilvie regards this unexpected use of Stealing Creation as his “kryptonite” – but it’s not something Jagex are likely to overhaul. “They’d taken the rules we’d given them and twisted them into something else,” Ogilvie says. “I don’t really have a problem with the mindset behind that, because they’re creative people. A lot of our players have incredible ideas.”

Vox populi

While RuneScape’s emergent potential was expanding, however, Jagex continued to work to increase the depth and fidelity of the game’s directed storytelling. Voice acting, introduced with the ‘Unstable Foundations’ tutorial mission, is now a feature in the majority of RuneScape’s key storylines. “We’d only ever done sound effects and music,” reflects lead developer Tim Chadfield. “[Voice] is a whole new dimension when developing a game, and it adds an enormous amount.” RuneScape’s Britishness comes across most clearly through its storytelling –

particularly in terms of humour. “There are a lot of comedic references in the game – traditional things that people would say are very British, like Monty Python, but I think you’ve got a bit of Red Dwarf in there as well,” Ogilvie explains. “I think the old school gathered-aroundthe-campfire storytelling style is fundamentally British – we try to reflect that in the storytelling that we have in the game.” Localised versions of the game started to launch from 2007, and translating that British humour to other languages presented a challenge. “It’s fascinating working with the translating team,” says Ogilvie. “The style of humour that we use is there, but they might use German references. That’s absolutely fine because the essence is still the same. Putting a slightly different twist on it to work well with other cultures is a positive thing.”

Ninjas spend an inordinate amount of time posing.

Branding trolls is dangerous work.

February 2009

October 2009

The first Clan Cup tournament is hosted by Jagex.

Jagex wins UK Developer of the Year at the Golden Joysticks – and not for the last time.

When Two Clans Go To War

Golden Joysticks

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2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013

2010

From the depths…

I

n 2010, a major new feature made RuneScape more accessible, cutting through some of the feature-creep of its middle years and giving players quicker access to its most creative and challenging content. “We found that RuneScape was becoming this unwieldy behemoth,” Mark Ogilvie says. “It was proving difficult for new players to get involved with the game, and to find the pieces of content they wanted to interact with. A lot of players had a problem I describe as ‘bank-stalling’, where you log in to the game, you look at all the equipment you’ve got in your bank, you look at all the quests that you could do – and you do none of it because you’re sitting there thinking ‘what’s the best thing for me to do?’”

The answer was the Dungeoneering skill, an ability that lets players explore dungeons generated on-the-fly based on their skills and those of their party. Dungeoneering served the needs of both new and veteran players by compacting several of the game’s ideas into a single adventure influenced by the same experiences that had sparked many of the ideas behind RuneScape in the first place. “You could go on your own – or take four mates – and you can create an oldschool roleplaying experience,” Ogilvie explains. “You’ve got a boss monster at the end, so you’ve got your traditional boss fight. You’ve got to use your skills along the way, so you’re using your woodcutting, fletching, farming or mining – whatever – to complete challenges.”

Dungeon crawling

Well, that’s one way of lighting a dungeon.

Dungeoneering had an energising effect on RuneScape’s players. “We started seeing the emergence of microcommunities,” Ogilvie says. “Groups of four or five people who enjoy Dungeoneering together. One of them would be the mage, the smith, the

ranger – for me, that’s the kind of old-school roleplaying feel that we all enjoyed in the 1990s, which is unfortunately dying out these days. I’d love to be able to breathe some life back into that feeling.” While the amount of time needed to fully master the game is vast, Jagex have worked continually to add variety to the critical path. “I look at all the content we’ve got in the game and I want to provide different ways for them to engage with it,” Ogilvie says, “whether that’s traditional and hardcore or more communityoriented. I’d like to take that approach with every single piece of content that we have in the game.” As a major update, Dungeoneering was in production for more than 18 months, and all the while the game’s pressing weekly update schedule continued. In order to meet this demand, the development of RuneScape was subtly restructured. “There’s the existing content team and then the innovation team,” explains Mark Gerhard. “We manage this way because we need a more dependable schedule, and over here

March 2010

August 2010

The first Signature Hero, Xenia, takes players through a new adventure.

The first of several real-life RuneScape celebrations takes place in London.

Xenia and the Blood Pact

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RuneFest


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DEV PROFILE

TIM CHADFIELD Lead developer projects are more elastic and risky. It’s like running Sky TV or something like that – we don’t get to not do the news on Friday.” In this regard, RuneScape is industryleading, and was recognised in 2010 by the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s most frequently updated MMO. “It’s fantastic,” reflects chief marketing officer David Solari. “It shows what can be achieved and how the UK can be at the leading edge in that kind of entertainment. It’s a great achievement to have made, and a great thing in the history of the UK games industry as well.” A new dungeon is randomly generated every time.

Tim manages a group of 11 developers designing and producing new diversions, minigames and features for RuneScape. He has been at Jagex for over seven years. The company has changed dramatically since you joined. Do you think players perceive the shift in-game? I think so. I’d like to think that the quality level of the game has increased dramatically. Can you provide an example of that within your own work on the game? One of the earlier pieces of content that I worked on was called ‘Barbarian Assault’, which I was pretty fond of. That was something, again, where we were given a lot of freedom because the company was a lot smaller. There was a lot of risk involved with giving someone a lot of freedom, but in certain situations it paid off. I was about to really think about what sort of things I had not seen in RuneScape so far and what I would like to add. I guess there are all sorts of developers and people interested in creating games who want to create something that feels unique. They want to pull upon their experiences and build something new. It was a key project for me. So how does Barbarian Assault work? It’s a five player minigame where you get a group of players in a dungeon and they’re each given a unique role to fulfil. You have waves

of monsters that the players have to fight off. I wanted to create something where the five players had to co-operate – it wasn’t going to be competitive in any way. In order to do that, I gave each of the five players a different piece of information that they would need to use, but the individual pieces of information would need to be shared with one of the other five players. Not only do they have to concentrate on the task that’s set for them, they have to remember to keep communicating with the other players and giving them information. Once you had that in your head, how did you get it made? Well, it always starts out as a brainstorm – just jotting down on paper as many things as you can possibly think of. Whether they’re going to lead to anything or not isn’t the purpose of the exercise. Then it comes down to writing up a basic design and getting the artists and the audio developer into a room and talking through it. Inevitably, everybody has extra ideas – I think that with a project like this, as with any project, we were keen to give some basic ideas of the way things should feel and the way they should potentially look – but then you always find that the artists use their expertise and they’ll come up with all sorts of strange ways of making these creatures and monsters that just adds that extra level of creativity to the project.

September 2010

October 2010

Jagex revamp Romeo & Juliet, one of the game’s first quests.

Jagex picks up another Golden Joystick.

Star-Crossed No More

UK Developer Of The Year – Again

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DEV PROFILE

TURSAN RAJA User interface artist

Tursan has been working on RuneScape as a user interface artist since 2011. Her work ranges from the Solomon Store to a wide variety of mini-games and quests. What lead you to work for Jagex? I had been working on games for different kinds of platforms – social games, mobile games and stuff like that. I wanted to work for an MMO and this is the best MMO there is! When I came here, I just wanted to stick around as I really love working on RuneScape. How does working here differ from the other games you’ve worked on? It’s very, very disciplined and it’s by far the biggest project I’ve ever worked on in my life. That makes a huge difference. The team is much bigger, but it’s different in every possible way, really. It’s more structured, and there is more to do because we’re updating it constantly – it’s exciting because every update is different from the next. It keeps us on the edge. With so many different artists working on a team, how do you make sure that your work coheres? All those artists have a different style, but we just work together to make sure that the style stays consistent throughout. I don’t know how that works, I really wish I had a simple answer to that question! It’s a lot of collaboration, I think that’s why we get that

result. Magic, maybe – a secret recipe that I can’t share? Do you have time to iterate on ideas, working on a project this demanding? Yes, all the time. We do iterate, and we do change – we get constant feedback and we can make changes. Obviously we have to stick to a plan, but we also have to listen to what players think. There’s always time – we have to make time for it. What guides you when you’re designing a new interface for RuneScape? I have to keep my interface as hidden as possible so you’re not too conscious about where you’re clicking – you just see the result of that action. That’s the tricky bit. I have to keep my most precious stuff hidden in a corner. If it’s something that you’re clicking instinctively without noticing, it’s a success. Is there anything you’ve worked on that you’re particularly proud of? A lot of stuff! I enjoy quests, making minigames, making faces. I’ve also worked on the Squeal of Fortune, and I’ve worked on Solomon’s Store. An easier question would be what I didn’t like... So what didn’t you like? You think I’m going to tell you that? No, there’s hardly anything that I didn’t like really. I really love it!

January 2011

February 2011

April 2011

RuneScape celebrates its tenth birthday with in-game events.

The Wilderness is restored, and there is much rejoicing.

The community starts building castles in the sky.

Ten Years!

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Free Trade

Clan Citadels


advertising feature 2011

...To the skies

E

arly in 2011, Jagex took a major step towards building even stronger ties with the RuneScape community. Open-world PvP was returned to the Wilderness area of the game after close consultation with players via the forums and a poll. “It was very much driven by player sentiment,” Ogilvie says. “We allowed them to vote over the future of the game. That’s a pretty big step, and it One Piercing Note is a fully voiced story.

Working together is at the core of Clan Citadels.

was a difficult thing for us to do. We hadn’t really thought about the community enough when we originally made these big, sweeping changes to the game.” Since then, however, close contact with the community has been the rule rather than the exception. Senior developers like Mark Ogilvie stay in touch with players via in-game friend channels and the forums, and interactive elements like voting are used more and more to steer Jagex’s decision making.

Robot wars

Despite paying dividends in one area, however, the reintroduction of open PvP also returned the potential for botting and real-world trading. The answer was ClusterFlutterer – a new bot detection programme that was launched into the game shortly after its announcement on the evocatively-named ‘Bot Nuke Day’. Jagex claim that the software has removed 98% of all RuneScape bots, and resulted – as of the 2011 RuneFest event – in 7.7 million account bans. Jagex held a series of bonus XP events on and around Bot Nuke Day to ensure that the player base knew Arabian Nights has been a big influence.

what was happening, and why – a studied attempt to avoid the kind of fallout that followed the Wilderness changes in 2007. Following close on the heels of Dungeoneering, another major game feature launched in 2011. Clan Citadels gives groups of players the ability to customise enormous fortresses on floating islands in the sky. “We wanted to give clans a home,” explains game designer Sebastian Davies. “Before Citadels, clans existed almost exclusively in chat – we wanted to give them a physical presence.” Implementing these customisable spaces required significant technical expertise. “Before we could even start building the content, we needed to design some hefty and fiddly core systems the likes of which we’d never really built for RuneScape before,” Davies continues. “Lots of challenges, and a whole load of work, but we were pleased with the result.” It’s another instance where working with the community has paid off. Clan leaders were consulted, and a list of desired features and changes drawn up based on their input. “During development we were pretty confident we were tackling the right sort of issues,” says Davies. “With all clan projects it’s important that we involve the community and take their feedback seriously – after all, it’s about giving them the tools they need to run their clans.” Players have found creative use for Citadels since their release: while some dedicate them to speeding up their skill progression, others have used them to host mini-games of their own, like hide and seek. Late 2011 also saw the release of One Piercing Note, a quest series that is resolutely popular with the game’s developers. As the first RuneScape storyline to be fully voiced from start to finish, it’s one of the strongest selfcontained narratives in the game.

September 2011

October 2011

A decade-long quest series concludes with the Ritual of the Mahjarrat.

The second RuneFest features game-themed skilling challenges.

Mahjarrat’s Fall

RuneFest 2

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2012-2013

Once and future

I

f you create a new RuneScape account today, your initial experience of the game will be very different to that of a new player at the beginning of 2012. In January, an extensive new tutorial – the Troll Warzone – introduced players to the game via an extensive series of quests and events, even including an oddly heartbreaking moral decision regarding the fate of an orphaned troll-baby. Moreover, the way you go about fighting your foes has changed dramatically. Teased throughout the year but launched in November, the Evolution of Combat update thoroughly reworked the mechanics supporting battle in RuneScape. An action bar has been added, allowing players to hotkey shortcuts to new combat skills, prayers, and more.

Added extras

Weapon special attacks have been replaced with persistent, skilldependant combat techniques with varying effects. Using these skills is a much more active experience than the previous system, and the revamp has also provided Jagex with an opportunity to fix long-standing issues with the balance of melee, ranged and magic combat styles. The scale of the challenge facing players has been increased, too. RuneScape’s current big bad is the Queen Black Dragon, a colossal enemy equivalent to a raid boss in another MMO. The business model has evolved, too: 2012 saw the launch of the game’s first microtransactions

“Er, hello? Bit of help here? Guys? Hello?”

system, Solomon’s Store. CEO Mark Gerhard trusts that players will stick with Jagex as they try out new ways of supporting the game’s development. “For sure, there is a popular sentiment against anything that is successful or commercial,” he says. “We all have pressures on our paycheque at the end of the month, but I think people still value quality, and will pay for that,” he says. “I think we’ve managed to make all those transitions reasonably successfully because we’ve always set out [their

necessity] very clearly. That’s helped remove a degree of cynicism.” The game celebrated reaching 200 million accounts in July 2012 – a number not only indicative of the game’s legacy, but of the ongoing effort needed to accommodate its growing community. At the time of writing, Jagex has over 550 employees, making it not only one of the largest developers in the UK but one of the biggest MMO developers in the world.

January 2012

June 2012

A new tutorial introduces players to the game during the siege of Burthorpe.

The Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II is marked in-game with events and a parade.

Troll Attack

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On Her Majesty’s Service


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DEV PROFILE

MARK GERHARD CEO

Mark joined Jagex as chief technology officer in 2008, and became CEO in 2009. He describes his role as CEO as “getting stuff done” and is very, very fond of tanks. What kind of challenges have you faced as Jagex’s CEO? The game grew organically; sometimes you need to make investments to clear up that technical debt, and we’ve done that. It’s sometimes very easy to forget how far you’ve come if you don’t take time to look back. I’m super proud of the team and the tech we’ve created. We’ve got world class infrastructure, talent, systems, processes. We’re working on some exciting next-gen stuff too. You’ve described RuneScape as a social network and as a service. Is the word “game” still useful? I’ve never thought of it as anything but that. Jagex stands for ‘just the game experience’ – I guess we’ve never even allowed ourselves to think beyond that. The fact that we’re also a platform, essentially a middleware developer, and all these other things... all of those have just been tools to provide a safe experience, and a fun one. The game has spread largely through word of mouth. Has that made it hard to express those values publicly? I think on one level, it’s been great – this is the world’s best-kept secret. When your friend

told you, it was like “wow, I’ve just discovered something”. Perhaps that was a better moment than when you’ve approached a product cynically because it’s being advertised to you. But I think we also missed out a bit as an organisation on getting players to understand what we’re passionate about, the kind of experiences we want to give them and our commitment to it. Has the playerbase changed substantially over the years? Literally, we’ve taken them from boys to men. I think part of the charm in the early days was, as the first browser-based game in the West, kids could play it at school when they may not have had a computer at home. But we have a great cohort analysis that shows how that population has moved with [us] – you can see, year after year, that our 13-yearolds are now 23. We’re not just producing entertainment for kids – we’re producing entertainment for ourselves. Finally – how important is it to you as a business, and as an entertainment provider, that you own a tank? It’s very important to me as a man. You know what? It’s just fun. We try not to take ourselves too seriously. We work hard and we work with smart people. We try to remember that life is about good things, and having a tank is just a bit of fun to drive over the occasional tree. Or car. Or house.

July 2012

September 2012

Cosmetic items go on sale in RuneScape’s first in-game store.

Accounts charged with botting go on public trial in a new area.

Solomon’s General Store

Botany Bay

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Going to war is more action-packed than ever.

Major changes are in store for 2013.

If 2007’s controversial Wilderness changes betrayed a misunderstanding of the community’s willingness to give up features for the sake of the game, then 2012’s answer to the botting problem neatly bookends this era in the game’s life. In September, Jagex introduced Botany Bay – a special island where accounts accused of unscrupulous or exploitative play are sent for trial. “We wanted to put it in the players’ faces so they could see what was going on,” Mark Ogilvie explains. “There was a lot of frustration, from a player’s perspective, when they reported a bot but then didn’t see anything happen. Giving a visual representation of what was going on live in the game was a very positive thing – they can see the bots being picked up and grabbed by a giant hand and taken out of the game.” Players can visit Botany Bay in person to vote on an array

of punishments. Troublemakers can be crushed, incinerated or eaten by a giant worm at the conclusion of a mock trial conducted by RuneScape’s Botfinder General. “From a creative perspective, we liked the idea of the Salem Witch Trials,” Ogilvie says. “I think what we did with Botany Bay was the first instance of showing them what was going on rather than trying to sweep it under the carpet. So many games are influenced by gold farmers, but they stick their fingers in their ears and pretend that it’s not going on.” This enthusiasm for transparency is refreshing, not only because it helps to build trust within a long-standing and sometimes fractious community, but because it exposes the human side to Jagex’s deep and complex adventure game. In February, Jagex launched a poll to ask players whether or not they’d like to see servers running an older, pre-Evolution of Combat version of RuneScape from 2007. The community’s enthusiasm for the idea says something about the history of the game – that there are as many RuneScapes as there are people who have played it, and that its future is not only found in the forward march of technology and content. It’s in its past, too – in reclaiming and celebrating years of passionate development work. RuneScape is a nominee in the ‘Best Online – Browser’ category at this year’s BAFTA awards, an accolade that brand director Simon Etchells says testifies to just how far the game has come. “BAFTA agree with us that it’s almost a new game,” he says. “It’s great to be recognised for that.”

November 2012

February 2013

February 2013

A major update significantly changes the rhythm and balance of battling.

The community votes for ‘old-school’ servers, running RuneScape circa 2007.

RuneScape is nominated for ‘Best Online – Browser’ at the 2013 BAFTA awards.

Combat Evolved

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Old School Servers

BAFTA Nomination!


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TH E F U T U R E OF

Jagex aren’t quite ready to reveal all the changes that are coming to RuneScape in 2013, but there are some exciting things on the horizon. We spoke to executive producer Phil Mansell to get a sense of what to expect... What are the key ways that the game will change this year? RuneScape is going to be taking a big evolutionary step forward, with almost all aspects of the game getting a major improvement or overhaul. We have a new game engine that runs in HTML5 – which will mean better visuals and audio – but it still runs instantly from within your web browser. In terms of gameplay, we will be kicking off an epic campaign of episodic content, with gigantic world events where players get to decide the outcome. We’ve also updated how players interact with the game, including new interfaces, camera system and controls. And that’s just the start of things...

How will existing players be involved? We’ve always had a close relationship with our community but we’re going to push that even further this year, as player empowerment is a central theme of RuneScape in 2013. The cornerstone will be a player-driven narrative, where the community will steer the story through their actions in-game and leave permanent changes to the game world. How are you making sure that the game stays competitive in a crowded market? We’re happy to be different and to set our own course. RuneScape has always been a distinctive experience and, even now, there are few online RPGs that offer anywhere near the scale, freedom and choice that our game has. That said, we know we need to keep evolving and improving, and that includes building on our thin-client technology, innovating with gameplay content, continuing to update the game’s visuals and audio, and even looking for future expansions onto mobile and tablet devices.

The origins of gielinor

Runescape’s past And future www.runescape.com

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ISSUE 251


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